Sage CRM joins Microsoft, Salesforce in the cloud

The business-software maker is trialling a cloud version of its CRM software, following other providers such as Microsoft and Salesforce

The CRM arm of UK business software maker Sage has begun pilot usage of a cloud-computing version of its software suite, hosted on Amazon's EC2 cloud infrastructure.

Sage CRM unveiled the cloud version of its SalesLogix suite at the Gartner CRM Summit in Arizona this week. The software should be commercially available from early 2010, the company said, although no information about regional variations has been given.

The SalesLogix cloud suite offers advantages over traditional SaaS (software-as-a-service) products, in that business will retain ownership of all their data and processes, Sage said.

"While first-generation software-as-a-service generated a lot of interest, people will look back on this era as a period of big-iron, centralised operations that restrict the ability to customise the solutions," said Joe Bergera, executive vice president and general manager, Sage CRM Solutions.

Bergera added that where some older-generation SaaS offerings force users to cede some control to the SaaS companies that host the software, Sage's approach gives more control back to the data owner, who can choose when to upgrade to the latest cloud-computing edition of Sage SalesLogix rather than following upgrade schedules dictated to them by their service provider.

"The next wave of cloud computing will benefit customers by providing a highly distributed and flexible deployment model that shifts control of the service to their favour, rather than SaaS vendors, so they can better tailor their CRM experience in a way that optimally suits their business," he said.

Sage also said its cloud service will benefit customers by allowing them to tailor its CRM software to the needs of specific departments.

Sage began incorporating some internet capabilities into its CRM software in 2008, including a hosted version. In March last year, the company announced that it would be adding more internet functionality, including to its three lines of CRM software — ACT by Sage, Sage CRM and Sage SalesLogix — over a two-year period, including the ability to draw information from sources such as the business social-networking site LinkedIn.

In July, Microsoft announced that its Dynamics CRM software would have a 'Social Networking Accelerator' component, which will allow companies to monitor what customers are saying on Twitter, and to provide information about products and services based on that data.

Analyst Gartner estimates the current market for cloud services at $46.4bn (£28bn), which it says could increase to $150.1bn by 2013.